Drinking Liberally weighs in on the State of the SDDP

In South Dakota, the South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP) will choose its Chairman for the next four years next week in Oacoma. There are five Democratic Candidates and one candidate who claims to be a Democrat when it is convenient for her. (Paula Hawks).

Despite a lot of good intentions and whatever the results, the SDDP will probably remain what it is today, a Top Down organization whose leaders will continue to wonder why its members don’t participate and do their bidding. Rather than live up to its name and reform itself and become a truly (small “d”) democratic organization, the SDDP will most likely remain a rural dominated Party in which “one county” rather than “one person” equals one vote and in which a Harding County with its 173 Democratic voters will have as much say in Party affairs as a Minnehaha, Pennington, Beadle or a Brown County with their tens of thousands of Democratic voters.

It was pointed out the other day that South Dakota has more cows per capita than any other state in the Nation. As long as the SDDP is governed on the basis of “one cow equals one vote” it and its candidates will never be able to form a message that resonates with a majority of both urban and rural voters. Instead it will lie moribund on the table as it does now, only partially organized and available to any cohesive interest group to use as a platform for its agenda, no matter how popular or unpopular that interest groups ideas may be to the general public.

It is a sad state of affairs because the Democratic Party affords ordinary people one of the few structures where they can regularly express their political preferences and attempt to influence the public discussion. Alternatively, people can either accept their powerlessness or choose to form and fund an independent organization of their own, an alternative, which for practical purposes, is available only to the wealthy, the well connected or those with a lot of extra time on their hands.

Despite my skepticism, I wish the SDDP well for they are the only alternative in town to the Republican Party, the Party of Trump, an alternative totally unacceptable to me for many reasons but also because, unlike our Senators, I don’t feel like Kowtowing anytime soon.

I need a Drink.


#1 Rufusx on 03.17.19 at 8:33 am

The claim that ” “one county” rather than “one person” equals one vote” is inaccurate. County officer votes are weighted by the number of votes the party’s last gubernatorial candidate received in that county in the last election. So per the example offered, if the vote of Harding County counts as 1, vs that of Minnehaha as 213 and Pennington counts as 103, Beadle as 116, and Brown as 42. Maybe if the “bottom” (you put yourselves there??) of the Democratic party were more active…………….

#2 Rufusx on 03.17.19 at 8:37 am

But I see you have already addressed that issue when you brought up accepting (and in this post even going so far as to sort of using false information to promote) powerlessness @ the Democratic party. I guess it’s hard to “feel the power” when you are insistent on standing on the outside; talk about self-defeating.

#3 Sheldon Osborn on 03.17.19 at 1:22 pm


I am afraid I need to correct you. You are confusing the vote for the South Dakota Democratic Party Chair (when Democratic National Committees rules require the vote to be one-person-one-vote) with every other vote the governing body of the South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP), its State Central Committee, holds when it meets. Per the SDDP’s Constitution, at State Central Committee meeting, except for votes for Party officers, each County officer has one vote, regardless of the size of the County. Thus my refrain that the current SDDP is governed on the basis of “one-cow-equals-one-vote”.

To underline this point, at the SDDP’s State Central Committee meeting in Oacoma on March 23rd to select Chair, the rules surrounding the election will be decided on a “one-cow-equals-one-vote-basis”, while the election for Chair will be decided on a one-Democratic-gubernatorial-vote-equals-one-vote basis.

The vote for Chair (and the other Party officers) is the only time the SDDP’s Central Committee votes on an approximation of the small “d” democratic principle of “one-person-equals-one vote. On votes regarding the business and direction of the SDDP, the Central Committee votes otherwise.

In fairness I should note that several years ago, in an attempt to reform the voting inequity in the SDDP, the Chairs of Legislative Districts were added to the SDDP’s State Central Committee and allowed to vote on most matters, so perhaps I overstate the current rural bias slightly.

If Scott can make it work, here is a link to a more detailed overview of the governing votes of the SDDP.


#4 rufusx on 03.18.19 at 9:52 am

Take it as a given that I agree a proportional weighting throughout the process would be the way to go.

That being said – how many counties don’t even have any officers and therefore get zero votes? I’m thinking quite a fe.?

County officers that I (as a legislative vice chair) interact with consult with other county party members before casting a vote.

Voting decisions made by county party officials (not the top-level party leaders) is not “top down”.

#5 rufusx on 03.18.19 at 9:56 am

Further – the DNC has some of the same issues @ presidential nominees – which a weighting of delegate votes based on a proportional number of votes cast for the Democratic candidate in the previous election would rectify. As is, those delegate weights are based on total population of the various states – not on Dems in those states – giving more weight to states that are less Democratic – where the nominee is less likely to garner a majority.

#6 Travis Wicks on 03.18.19 at 10:08 am

When we vote for our statewide candidates at the State Convention every two years, the party calculates the weight of the votes for Governor to determine how many voters each county gets, and then every vote is equal weight…

While there are certainly a very large portion of the electorate in the Sioux Falls community, is it more fair to give the higher density areas that much more say?

The founding fathers had the same argument and that’s how they came up with the bicameral system of government… do we need to do the same?

#7 rufusx on 03.18.19 at 8:00 pm

Travis – the founders’ thinking is not really about being bicameral – it is about giving one house (the Senate) disproportionate power vs. the House of Reps. The balance given is that the Reps control the $$$. They also gave undue weight to te electoral college. WHY? It was a move to assuage the Southern, slave-holding more rural states, the states where MOST of the population had no vote – no citizenship – no rights – and only counted as 3/5s of a person each. It was devised to keep those states from rebelling (how did that work out?)

#8 Travis Wicks on 03.18.19 at 9:12 pm

According to the history books I use in my classroom, you’ve got that backwards. The southern states wanted representation in Congress to be based in population, while the northern states, whose populations were growing much more slowly, preferred equal representation. The Great Compromise was the bridge for both sides to be able to come together and approve the constitution.

#9 rufusx on 03.19.19 at 5:37 am

But to be clear – it was about who “counted” as people deserving representation. Not what the actual count was. Recall that non-white, male property owners had no say so (vote – voice), at all.

#10 rufusx on 03.19.19 at 5:40 am

System devised in those times to address the social dynamics of those time. These are not the times or the society that that system was designed for. It doesn’t fit so well any more. And the true beauty of the constitution is not is stasis, but its mutability.

#11 Travis Wicks on 03.19.19 at 10:30 am

We can at least agree on the true genius of the Constitution… it is extraordinary that our Founding Fathers were able to craft an potentially ever evolving document.

Leave a Comment